The three players Bafana Bafana must watch against Ethiopia
Three attacking Ethiopian players could pose a great danger to Bafana Bafana when the two sides meet at the Bahir Dar International Stadium in Ethiopia in the third round of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
Firew Asrat, a football journalist in Ethiopia helped TimesLIVE understand how Ethiopian skipper and attacking midfielder Shimelis Bekele (30), strikers Getaneh Kebede (29) and Abubeker Nasser (21), could be a handful for Hugo Broos’s team in the first of two back-to-back matches.
Saturday’s match will kick off at 3pm (SA time) at a stadium the Ethiopians enjoy playing at after beating Ivory Coast (2-1, 2021 Afcon qualifier, November 2019), Madagascar (4-0, Afcon qualifier, March 2021) and Zimbabwe (1-0, World Cup qualifier, September 2021).
Bekele plays for Egyptian Premier League club El Gouna and is the only Ethiopian player abroad. He has been in the Ethiopian side since 2010 and has earned 34 caps, scoring 7 goals.
Asrat says Ethiopia, who are currently ranked 150th in the world and have a lot of youngsters, rely on Bekele for guidance both on and off the field.
“He’s the team skipper and often initiates attacks that result in goals for the side.
“If he’s marked and can’t do his magic on the field, Ethiopia struggle to win games,” said Asrat.
Bekele has featured in the two qualifiers Ethiopia played against Ghana (1-0 loss away) and Zimbabwe (1-0 win at home) and will hope to help the team beat Bafana for the second time in Ethiopia after their 2-1 win in 2013 in which he and Kebede featured.
Kebede is one of the well-known players in the Ethiopian team having played 42 matches for his national team, scoring 24 goals.
He is the centre forward and the Bafana defence should keep an eye on him because the Wolkite Ketema (Ethiopian Premier League) player can appear anywhere and score if he’s left alone around the area.
Kebede scored Ethiopia’s equaliser in their 2-1 win against Bafana in 2013 and will want to continue showing he has not lost his touch which saw him join Bidvest Wits between 2013 and 2016, where he played 30 matches and scored nine goals.
“He’s been central to Ethiopia’s form in recent times and likes to play and score for the national team when they are at home,” said Asrat.
Nasser is the most talked about player in Ethiopian football at the moment after he scored 29 goals in 23 league matches for Ethiopian Coffee SC in the domestic Premier League last season.
Baroka FC, SuperSport United and Cape Town City were among SA clubs who were linked with the 21-year-old striker before the start of the 2021-22 campaign.
Nasser is often deployed on the right of the attack for Ethiopia but he’s capable of coming from either side of the field and punishes opponents if left unmarked.
“He’s an exciting player and Ethiopia will look to him for the future when Kebede and Bekele have retired.
“His light frame may make defenders not take notice of him and that could be a big mistake because he’s good in taking his chances.”